Monday, 30 April 2012

General Ramblings: Different Intensity Gaming

I play several different games. Duh...

I've recently dusted off both 40k and Fantasy after a rather long break from GW. Having played a lot of WarmaHordes and Malifaux has given me a new perspective on the games of yesteryear.

No, I'm not saying the Warhammers are dead. I'm just saying I haven't played them for a while. And that while has taught me that Warhammer is a relatively low-intensity game.

See, Warhammer (in both iterations, though perhaps even more so for Fantasy) is a much slower game than either Malifaux or WarmaHordes. And this comes down to one thing, more than anything else: the importance of individual play pieces.

(Just a warning before we start. There are no pictures in this article. I'm lazy, and you're grown-up enough to read books with only text in them. Aren't you?)

The King Piece
WarmaHordes has a King Piece. You have your Caster, and if he/she/it meets an untimely demise, the game's (most often) over. Malifaux has a bit less focus on the Masters, but losing yours does not bode well. A crew can wrest victory without a Master, but it's gonna be an uphill struggle (against the wind, on a slippery slope, at least for some crews).

If you lose your Space Marine Librarian, you shrug and move on. He's not that important, really.

If you lose your General in Fantasy, odds are your already on the ropes. 'Cause the King Piece is really not just the General himself, but the block of Infantry he's most likely hiding in. Also, while his demise will hamper your army, it's unlikely to be quite as bad as for the real King Piece games (unless you're Undead, of course, and then, why did you get your General/Hierophant killed?). So here, the King Piece is less crucial, and has fifty wounds (sort of, anyway...).

The Combo
If you've played WarmaHordes, you'll know that it's rarely one single model/unit that makes the winning move. Assuming you're going for the Caster Kill (as winning on scenario contains many more variables than I can be bothered exploring here) there's usually a kill-piece of some sort. However, it is very rare for that kill piece to be working alone. Let's look at my Cryx (who are admittedly very reliant on a chain of things...) to show what I mean.

I usually use a Slayer to kill the opposing Caster.

That Slayer is almost always buffed with Infernal Machine, cast either by one of the Witch Coven, through an Arc Node, or by a Skarlock Thrall.

To get the Slayer to its target, it's almost always necessary to use either Curse of Shadows or Veil of Mists, to allow the Slayer to move through the enemy, and Ghost Walk, to allow it to move through terrain. All of these are usually cast by the Witch Coven through an Arc Node.

Now, this chain of events is very central to how my Cryx play, meaning I have failsafes built into the list (there are two Slayers and two Arc Nodes, as well as a backup plan or two), but if one link is removed (say the Arc Nodes), my ability to deal with the opposing Caster is severly crippled.

This is not even remotely the worst combo in the WarmaHordes universe, but it serves as an example. Malifaux is much the same: the truly effective Crews rely on various different types of combos to work.

I bet you can name three army builds from 40k that are based on a combo like this. Go on, I'll wait.

Got it?

Has any one of those builds avoided the Gimmick Trap? That is, are they actually strong combos, or are they simply surprising? Are they consistent, or random? Can you build a plan around those combos, and expect it to work?

Didn't really think so...

Sure, there are things that combine well; of course there are. But those things are not as interdependent as the links in a true combo chain.

One final factor that determines an individual piece's importance is the amount of redundance built into a list. If there are several pieces that can perform the same task, their individual importance goes down. Once again: duh.

How many units in your 40k army can deal with tanks? How many can deal with heavy infantry? Hordes? I'm betting there are several units that have some skill in all of those, and can hold objectives as well. The loss of any one is not a crippling blow.

Now, how many of your WarmaHordes models can raise dead Mechanithralls, or manage Fury? Not as many, am I right? More importantly, how many of your units/models can reliably kill the opposing Caster? A heavy 'Jack? Once again, not as many, I'd wager.

It's difficult to knock out an opponent's ability to harm your 40k tanks, since that ability is usually spread over weapon troopers in several different squads (which you have to hurt rather badly before getting to the good stuff). It is not quite so difficult to take out your opponent's one heavy 'Jack (the one thing threatening your big Kill Piece) or his two AOE producing solos (who're threatening your high-DEF infantry).

What's it all mean?
Well, for one thing, it means you don't worry when your opponent wipes out one of your 40k squads. There are others that can do their job. Which means you probably didn't think quite as much about how to protect it, to begin with. Plonk it in cover and you're golden.

That one important WarmaHordes solo, though? There's gonna be hell to pay if that's taken out, so you'de better cover your bases.

It also means that there are turns in WarmaHordes (and Malifaux) where things just have to go right. That assassination run has to work, or you're in trouble. Pandora's Battle Train needs to kick off right, or the little girly is gonna be stuck in the middle of the opposing crew. And Pandora does not do well there...

All in all, it means that the combo-laden, King Piece-having, nail-biter games leave your heart in your throat and bring your opponent to his toes, whereas 40k and Fantasy make for more relaxed play, where the dead pile is dozens of models deep, but your plans are still a go.

The Warhammers are much less intense games.

Or at least that's how I see it...



  1. I may not be remembering the exact terms, but sounds like classic play styles - "Classical" - low risk, avoid mistakes, attritional play vs. "Romantic" - big risk, big payoff moves, the full extension lunge for the heart that leaves you exposed if you miss. So Warmahordes lean towards more romantic play, WH towards more classical.

  2. I think you may be on to something there. It's certainly why I stick with the GW games even though they are technically 'not as good games'. Sometimes I don't want to be intensified; sometimes I've had a rotten week and would rather not be taking high risks and lunging for high rewards.